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Education and learning has been a driving force in Honora W.’s life since she was a little girl growing up in South Central Los Angeles. Her mother made many personal sacrifices to send Honora and her sister to private school, an hour away from home. "Even though we didn't have a lot of money," Honora remembers, "my mom did everything she possibly could to make sure my sister and I were safe and could get a quality education. The inspiration she instilled in me and the foundation she and my grandmother gave me paved the way for my continued focus on learning and development throughout my 20+ year career path."
Honora joined the Facebook company in 2019 to lead the Global Operations Learning Organization. Less than a year later, conversations around racial inequalities, bias, and allyship took center stage as millions of people around the world joined the movement to demand racial justice by staging or attending protests, educating themselves, and speaking out against inequality.
“As a Black woman raising a Black son, this moment was deeply personal to me and pushed me to think differently about how I showed up to work every day. I was determined to turn that moment into a catalyst for action,” shares Honora. With strong support from her leadership team, she launched a new Global Operations Employee Resource Group, Black@GO. The group is dedicated to bringing people together to support each other, providing a safe place to share raw feelings, helping members seek mentorship and inspiration, and giving people a way to collaborate on addressing tough issues that people in the Black community face every day.
Arun takes a moment to relax in a park.
For Arun Chandra
, Honora’s manager and one of the leaders of the Global Ops team, creating an inclusive culture is also deeply personal. A strong ally of underrepresented communities and the father of a daughter in high school who is passionate about gender equity, he knows firsthand the importance of building a team centered on equality and opportunity.
We sat down with Honora and Arun to hear more about their focus on creating an inclusive culture at Facebook and why that’s so important.
What are some of the steps you’re taking on the Global Ops team to ensure greater inclusion?
Diversity has always been a big focus for us, but in 2020, social justice issues led us to ask if there was more we could do. The leadership team—under the direction of John DeVine
, who leads Global Ops—agreed that we needed to elevate our efforts, and we’ve continued to take steps toward even greater inclusion this year. The team moved quickly to drive meaningful change across the team and established a Global Ops-wide Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) council focused on FIND, GROW, and KEEP— the three pillars of our program centered on hiring, retaining, nurturing and developing diverse talent. The council is led by managers on our respective teams and is supported by dozens of volunteers who drive various parts of the program.
In addition to Black@GO, we also launched Women@GO, which I’m proud to co-lead with my colleague Suba Vasudevan
We may not be able to change the world overnight, but we can definitely make a difference in our small corner of the world.
Honora: Following the tragic deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, as a leadership team it was really important for us to be there for our Black teammates who were trying to process what was happening. We hosted listening sessions so we could listen, learn, sympathize, and empathize. I’ll never forget hearing from a teammate in Europe who said, “Thanks so much for reaching out, no one ever reaches out to us. We have similar experiences and care deeply about what happens in the US.” We’re all affected and share the same story, just in different parts of the world.
After these sessions, we felt a recurring need to bring people together—which inspired us to launch Black@GO.
Our Black Leaders Circle is another strong community at Facebook. Within that, I’m part of a working group focused on the area of content policy enforcement, which covers policies related to racial and social justice such as voter suppression, and other issues. We’re currently thinking about how we can increase transparency around the policy decisions we make, both within Facebook and externally.
Arun, what does it mean to you to be an ally?
Arun: By definition, an ally is someone who has similar interests and shares a common mission. For me, allyship starts with empathetically developing an understanding and culminates in taking specific actions. While I may never be able to walk entirely in someone else’s shoes, it is really important to make a genuine effort to understand the challenges they’re facing and how they’re feeling. This will help us learn about what kind of support is needed as help should be defined by the receiver and not the giver.
Beyond understanding, being an ally means using one’s power or influence to help others, whether it’s for an isolated incident with one person or systemically for the broader community.
“While I may never be able to walk entirely in someone else’s shoes, it is really important to make a genuine effort to understand the challenges they’re facing and how they’re feeling.”
Honora enjoys a moment outdoors soaking in the sunshine.
How do you lead your team to encourage greater inclusion on a daily basis?
Honora: Authenticity is key. Having the courage to tell your own personal story can open opportunities for teammates to do the same. Last year, in 30-minute sessions across time zones, I shared my own story—something I’ve never done in a professional setting before. I talked openly about how George Floyd’s death took me back to my youth in South Central Los Angeles and what it felt like to experience the civil unrest around racial injustice. I talked about what it’s like to raise a Black son in this environment. I shared my thoughts, feelings, and how I was reflecting on what was happening in this country. I spoke up because I wanted people to know I felt their pain and identified with them.
The responses were overwhelming. People were emotional and started sharing their own personal stories. I saw how much they appreciated my openness, and I think it also helped others understand why Black teammates were feeling so much frustration, anger, and fear.
At Facebook, everyone is encouraged to bring their authentic self to work and it’s something that sets the company apart. When I interview someone who self-identifies as Black, they ask questions like, “How are you treated as an underrepresented minority? How are Black people treated at Facebook?” I’m proud I can tell them that working with Arun and John, I feel seen, respected, and supported. Leadership cares deeply. We don't always have all the answers, but there’s positive intent to learn, understand, and make a difference.
Arun: Facebook's mission is to bring billions of incredibly diverse people closer together and build a sense of community. This has naturally led to a diverse culture inside the company as diversity is critical for building products for a global audience and supporting them all over the world. To do this, within our team we have people who speak more than 70 languages. And with that comes a wonderful cornucopia of cultures and diversity of thought, gender, race, and ethnicity.
As leaders, our goal is to enable all of our team members to do the best work of their careers at Facebook. The starting point to make this happen is to treat everyone with the utmost respect and fairness. This is our core value and this is what we practice each and every day as a team.
“At Facebook, everyone is encouraged to bring their authentic self to work and it’s something that sets the company apart.”
What advice would you give to someone who is trying to build a more inclusive team and isn’t sure where or how to start?
Honora: Look at your network, peers, team members and ask yourself questions like, “Do I have a personal connection with this person? What do I know about this individual that will help me collaborate with them?” If you can’t answer, it’s likely you don’t know the person enough on a personal level, and you might consider spending more time with them.
I love tea times and coffee talks. And while we’re doing things virtually amidst the pandemic, it might be as simple as a digital meet and greet. You can say something like, “Let’s just spend time getting to know each other over coffee. We’re not going to talk about business at all, that’s the only rule for our time together.” I firmly believe that fostering personal relationships will translate into better business relationships. And the teamwork and collaboration that results is what drives innovation and helps us work better together, especially in times of crisis.
Arun: Begin by having authentic conversations about inclusivity gaps in the team. Having open dialogue without preconceived notions is a great starting point. Use your conversations to build a baseline of understanding and empathy. Next, convert the understanding into a series of deliberate actions that make sense for your team. Most importantly, follow through and measure progress.
Bottom line: treat diversity and inclusion as a critical business imperative!
What’s the best advice you’ve been given professionally?
Honora: Be yourself. There's something you are uniquely created to do that only you can do and no one else can, and you have to show up as your authentic self in order to be able to accomplish it.
Arun: Develop your North Star, your personal mission which integrates both your personal and professional life. Let it guide your journey and always stay true to it.